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Over 20 bills to improve government transparency take shape in state House

hawaii house of representatives.jpg
Hawaiʻi House of Representatives

This week, more than 20 ethics reform bills were up for discussion at the state House of Representatives.

Many of the bills were recommended to the state Legislature by the Commission to Improve Standards of Conduct, which is commonly known as the Foley Commission.

The bills were part of a package to improve transparency and accountability in state and county government in the wake of unveiled corruption throughout state and county government.

Proposals include increasing public election funding and requiring lawmakers to submit public expenditure reports. One bill would expand the state’s Sunshine Laws to task forces and special committees.

House Judiciary and Hawaiian Affairs Chair David Tarnas of Hawaiʻi Island said many of the bills have already crossed over into the state Senate.

"When we've considered bills from the commission that are duplicative, I may recommend to defer those bills if we've already passed out a measure that is the same or virtually similar," Tarnas said. "So it's not like I don't want to pass these commission bills, just that we've already passed out a bill that does the same thing. Not everyone understands that process."

Tarnas said it's more efficient to rehear bills and then defer, rather than not schedule the bills at all.

"The reason why I'm hearing all these bills including the duplicative ones is because I promised to do so at the beginning of session that we would hear all the bills proposed by the Commission to Improve Standards of Conduct," Tarnas said.

The House has also adopted rule changes to improve transparency. Some rules include recommendations from CISC relating to reform, disclosures, standards of conduct and conflicts of interest.

The adopted rule changes are applicable to the operating procedures for the House Committee on Standards of Conduct, and the House Administrative and Financial Manual.

"The timeline to finalizing the rules was extended to incorporate suggestions by members and CISC recommendations. We have been operating under the existing rules and are now establishing new rules and procedures," Majority Leader Nadine Nakamura of Kauaʻi said in a release.

"After a comprehensive review by the review committee and feedback from all members of the House, we are pleased to share the final rules which highlight improvements in our standards of conduct," Nakamura said.

Sabrina Bodon is Hawaiʻi Public Radio's government reporter. Contact her at sbodon@hawaiipublicradio.org or 808-792-8252.
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